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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
Joe Burrow pushed to play in the preseason finale, and head coach Zac Taylor granted his wish. Burrow played three snaps and only attempted one short pass, but it was an important psychological hurdle for the young passer to overcome as he returned from last year’s season-ending ACL tear. Camp ended on a high note for Burrow, as he strung together a series of impressive practices showing the accuracy and velocity that made him the first overall pick a season ago. Brandon Allen is locked in as the backup. Kyle Shurmur was impressive against the Dolphins, completing 18-of-27 for 206 yards and a touchdown, but it’s probably not enough to make the 53-man roster.
The pecking order at running back is clear. Joe Mixon is the lead back and should dominate the snaps. He played just a few snaps in the preseason finale, carrying it once for five yards. Samaje Perine is the top backup and would likely be a workhorse in any games Mixon misses. Chris Evans is a roster lock as the No. 3. The rookie has impressed as a receiver and should instantly have a role on third downs. He caught a 29-yard touchdown on a wheel route against the Dolphins. After missing most of camp, Trayveon Williams returned for the final preseason game and ran well. He racked up 44 rushing yards, though it proved to be too little, too late for his roster chances as he and Jacques Patrick didn’t stick on the 53-man roster.
After three drops in the second preseason game, Ja'Marr Chase rebounded with an impressive week of practice. However, on his lone target in the third preseason game, Chase had another lousy drop. It is hard to tell if this is a legitimate concern or a statistical quirk of the preseason. Tee Higgins was held out of the preseason finale with back stiffness. Coach Taylor said Higgins “absolutely would have played” if this were a regular-season game. Chase, Higgins, and Tyler Boyd will command most of the targets, and Auden Tate has a secure hold on the No. 4 spot. Mike Thomas has performed well as a special teams gunner, which should give him a leg up for a roster spot, even though Trenton Irwin and Trent Taylor have flashed during camp.
When Joe Mixon talked about the “fabulous five” on offense, he included himself, Burrow, Chase, Higgins, and Boyd. C.J. Uzomah has been pushing for inclusion as the sixth man and has backed up the talk with a fantastic camp. Drew Sample is the top backup. Thaddeus Moss, one of Burrow’s favorite targets at LSU, has made a move for the No. 3 role over the last couple of weeks. He caught five passes for 44 yards against the Dolphins, but the team still opted for Mitchell Wilcox behind Uzomah and Sample.
Cornerback Trae Waynes is questionable for Week 1 with a hamstring injury. He suffered an injury to the other hamstring early in camp. Should Waynes miss time, Darius Phillips would step into the lineup. Promising rookie defensive end Joseph Ossai will miss the 2021 season with a knee injury. Fellow rookie Darius Hodge should now make the roster in Ossai’s place. He had yet another strong showing against Miami, notching a sack on an inside spin move.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
Bengals radio announcer Dan Hoard notes everything changed for Joe Burrow after the surprisingly frank press conference he held on August 7. In that press conference, Burrow went in-depth about his frustration and discomfort in the pocket. Later that day, he went out and had one of his best practices and has not looked back since. Not everything has been perfect. Execution on deep balls has still been spotty. However, Burrow has looked like the same guy who put together a strong rookie season in the two weeks since he set off alarm bells with his early struggles. Burrow is pushing to play in the preseason finale on Saturday against Miami, but it is unclear whether he will get his wish. Brandon Allen had a rough outing against Washington, completing 8-of-17 passes for 70 yards. He missed a couple of easy throws and was erratic.
Joe Mixon made his preseason debut but only played a handful of snaps before the coaching staff had seen enough. He opened the action with a 15-yard gain on a screen, but it was called back due to holding. He lowered his head on a short gain between the tackles and took a shot that may have contributed to the staff deciding to pull him quickly. Mixon’s early exit gave top backup Samaje Perine a chance to play a few series with the starting offensive line. He couldn’t get much going but still looks locked in as the backup for early downs. Chris Evans was third in the rotation and ran for 35 yards on nine carries. He has earned what should be a weekly role in the offense as a change-of-pace option. Jacques Patrick led the team in rushing with 42 yards on six carries. He has probably solidified his spot on the 53-man roster as the No 4.